Friday, February 29, 2008

My Dearest Bali

Today is my last day in Bali.
My 8 or so days here have been full and exciting. I have made many friends here, locals I am excited to see again when I return.
Since I last wrote I have been mostly diving, although I did take a day to enjoy a traditional Balinese spa. I think I spent about $17 on a 2hr massage/body scrub/flower petal bath, a facial, and cream hair bath. I was there about 4.5 hours. It was lovely.
The diving. Oh wow, the diving!! Two days ago I woke early and was picked up by my dive master, Made (Ma-dai), who is now a good friend. Richard joined me for this dive and we three headed out to Tulamben to dive the USS Liberty wreck. We did two dives here and they were both amazing. This is considered one of the safest wreck dives in the world. The USS Liberty was a WWII American supply ship that was hit by a Japanese torpedo. The boat did not sick, but was safely tugged to shore of Tulamben where all the important and valuable parts were salvaged. In 1963 Mt. Agung, which had been dormant for 300 years, erupted and the resulting lava flow pushed the USS Liberty off the beach and into the shallow waters of Tulamben bay. This event also broke the ship into three parts which make swim-throughs more accessible and safer. Today it is covered in coals and has become the home to thousands of fish which seem unperturbed by the constant stream of divers wanting to explore this great dive site. I have some great photos but the computer I am on now can not upload the files. I will give it a try when I get to Singapore. I think Tulamben was the best diving I have ever done.
After the diving Made took Rich and I to Padangbai. Padangbai is a sea side town that is home to a very important temple and some great dive sites. I dressed myself in Balinese traditional dress and watched the hundreds of people passing down the main road on their way to the temple. It turns out that we had arrived during a four day ceremony which happens once a year on the Balinese calender (so about every 1.5years for us). Balinese come from all over the island to pray during these four days. They bring offerings which they carry on their heads, and are blessed and cleansed by the priest of the temple. Hindu priests from all over Bali come as well. It was such an amazing site to see. I would have been allowed to join them as I was wearing Balinese dress but I was shy and nervous I would not do the right thing even though I had previously been to temple. I regret that, but I am glad I was not shy to wear the traditional clothing as it made the Balinese people who saw me very happy.
Yesterday Made and I dove Padangbai bay and the Blue Lagoon. The diving was not as exciting as Tulamben but we did see thousands of fish, loads of blue spotted sting rays, and I got to hold a bright purple puffer fish in my hands!!! That was such a highlight! Made caught it for me and it puffed itself up to look all scary, but it was soft and beautiful. I did not hold it long as I knew it was probably scared. We saw about 5 or 6 different kinds of puffer fish, some big and spiky when they puffed up and some small and soft like my little purple friend. We also saw lots of clown fish. At Tulamben I was bitten by an aggressive clown fish, it took a little chunk out of me the bugger. But at Padangbai the clown fish were more gentle. Some were huge! Who knew Nemo could grow so big! Huge angle fish too. I saw several eels, two giant moray eels- those are NOT cute and cuddly, and some blue ribbon little eels that I totally mistook for long fish with their heads in the sand. So the diving was great. Almost being run over buy the ferry was not so fun but more of an adventure. It passed by maybe 3 meters above us when we were in the shallows of the reef and we had to swim away fast from the propellers. I gained a sympathy for marine life and a dislike for motor boats. When Made and I were down 29.6 meters we could still hear the piercing hum of engines that hurt my ears so much I wanted to end the dive. The boats were not that frequent but they were annoying. I feel for all the marine life that dies such a painful death from the noises created by underwater drilling. Motor boats alone drove me crazy. Made was excited to dive with me because my breathing is so good. We had a bottom time of 60mins and we went to max safety depths where air is compressed and doesn't last very long. I go into this zen kind of place underwater. I love being an observer in the land of the fishes.
Yesterday I also said goodbye to Richard who has been a stellar travel companion for my time in Bali.
I am in Sanur now. Made brought me here last night and took me out to dinner. I was so tired from diving I passed out around 8pm. This morning I went to a cafe to do some writing and eat some breaky and low and behold I had walked into a Canadian-Balinese cafe. I was shocked to open the menu and see "Traditional Canadian breakfast" and I whole page devoted to Canadian food I have never really eaten (mostly pub food stuff). I had french toast and a latte. So good!!

Next stop Singapore! I am trying to get a bed at The InCrowd Hostel which has won tones of awards and looks fabulous!!! I might fall in love with Singapore, who knows!

I have loved my time in Bali as I am sure my entries here have made evident. I will miss it but I am excited to move on and discover new places. My wanderlust continues.



Here are some photos from my diving at Tulamben, the USS Liberty wreck. Some of the photos turned out so well I am thinking I might make the move to underwater photography. It would keep me diving! Oh that diver is me, except of the one with the upsidedown diver - i took that of someone else. I am not able to upload all the pics I want to. The computer has become very slow. Sorry.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My garden home

Gusti Garden Bungalows- my palace of a "home-stay".

Mt. Batur

Hello again!
Two more fabulous days here in Ubud.
Yesterday I had a Balinese cooking class. It was lots of fun. I was taken on a market tour and introduced to all the spices, vegetables, and fruits that are traditionally used in Balinese cooking. The dishes we made were fabulous, several of them I had already tried in restaurants. Rich and I hung out in the afternoon enjoying the many fabulous cafes in Ubud.
Today ( or last night...?)
At 2:30 in the morning Rich and I were picked up at our hotels and driven to Mt. Batru. We were going to clime the famous volcano. Mt. Batru last erupted in 2000. It is an extremely active volcano. Not every eruption is massive but they do all spew lava, if not a massive lava flow.
Our guide, Mabang, met us at the base and we started our climb. Now I was expecting more of a, well, "trek". "Climbing" is rarely ever really climbing, but more of a strenuous walk around a mountain slowly winding your way to the top. Not this climb. No we went straight up the face. Granted we did a bit of winding but the majority was very steep over craggy sharp and often loose molten rock from previous eruptions.
It was difficult but climbing but the light of the moon over ancient lava flows was magical. The views were stunning, and watching the sun rise over Lombok was probably the most stunning sunrise I have ever seen.
After the sun had risen and we had regained some body warmth (massive sweating then cool summit winds... not so cozy) we walked along another creator ridge so we could cook our breakfast in the steam rising from deep within the volcano. FABULOUS!! -if not the food then the cooking method. We hung out and chatted to Mabang for about an hour as we took in the views. I told Mabang I would be coming back and that he was going to be my guide and take me all over Bali. I need to come back. I need to be here. Everyday I fall more in love with this island. I can't believe I will be leaving in a few days, I am so not ready.
Our walk down the mountain was mostly uneventful, well besides being separated from Mabang (briefly lost), my landing on the side of my foot wrenching my ankle, and running down the side of the mountain on powder fine volcanic rock.
I need more sleep, but otherwise I want for nothing but more time here.



Sunday, February 24, 2008


I am moving to Ubud.
This place is magical, sure it is a bit touristy but the tourist (myself included) here don't feel offensive.
Ubud is nestled in the hills of Bali, close to the centre of the island. The land is lush, the people are welcoming and kind but not pushy even when they are trying to get you into their shop.
I fell in love with this place the moment I arrived. I am so sorry I have to leave in a few days. My stay in Bali will be altogether too short.
I arrived two days ago from Kuta. (Dirty Dancing was my sound track on the bus up- fabulous!)
My first evening here I did some shopping and went to a traditional Balinese dance at the Ubud Palace. My hotel is amazing. It is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed in, not just this trip, ever! It is called Gusti Garden Bungalows and the view off my private balcony looks over lush gardens and a beautiful refreshing swimming pool. It is my palace. I have found paradise and I don't want to leave, not ever.
Yesterday I went on a Eco Cycling trip. We left early in the morning, drove to Mt. Bautu and then cycled 30km (mostly downhill, but not all) around the Ubud area. The guide was very knowledgeable. He taught us about Balinese culture and home life. The tour took us to a garden/farm where we were educated on the fruits and vegetables of Bali. We got to observe traditional coffee bean roasting and sample several different teas, coffees, hot cocoa, and fruits. the tour also took us to a family compound to see how people live in the country side, the traditional and spiritually relevant layout of the compound, and the cows and pigs that the family will keep. The cows are not eaten as Balinese are Hindu, but are keep as kind of an insurance policy for the family.
The country side we cycled past was breathtaking. Bali seems so untouched by the commercial western world. One of the particularly special aspects of Bali is that each village has a temple and these temples are very old. It reminded me quite a bit of Siem Reap, not Angkor Wat per say as that temple is very big, but the smaller old temples that have decayed a bit. The difference here is that the people live around the temple. There are these ancient structures everywhere that are not for tourism, they are central to life.
At the end of our cycling tour we were treated to a fabulous Balinese lunch. The food was so good, especially after the 10km of slow gentle uphill climb we had just completed.
the tour finished with a trip to the Monkey Forest here in Ubud city. I have a million pictures of monkeys as there were about a million monkeys... actually a little scary.
On this tour I met Richard. Richard is my English, 6'6" version of Duncan. We clicked right away, and now I am horribly abusing his offer to use his computer. Rich is great and I think I have hooked him into being a travel buddy for a few days. So much for being alone.
Our guide, Gday, offered to take us to a special ceremony at a temple then to the night market for some local food. Richard and I snatched up the chance, so a few hours after arrival back in Ubud I was picked up and then dress up in full Balinese costume. No one is allowed to enter a temple unless dressed in traditional cloths. We were driven to the temple where we made an offering, prayed and were blessed by a priest. There were no other westerners there and we certainly could not help but be noticed. (Richard is part giant). After the procession from the temple we sat to watch some (2hrs) Balinese dancing which was part of the temple's ceremony (happens every 6 months).
The dancing was amazing, even if we were exhausted after our physical day. We had to leave the dance a bit early in order to catch the night market before it closed at midnight. I was not hungry as the lunch was massive, but I still tasted some new dishes and they were very good. When I finally arrived at my oasis of a hotel I feel fast asleep. No dreams so possibly top my day.
I will upload pics of my hotels the next chance I get.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bali- now we're talking!

So I have arrived in Bali, Kuta to be exact.
I exited the airport last night and walked into South East Asia. The smells, the people, the architecture, the stray dogs, the mopeds, the night vendors, the food, the incense, the "hello darling" s. Last night as my hotel's van drove through town I was on the verge of tears I was so happy. I am so at home here. Australia was fun, but Bali is way more my style. Now I am traveling!!
As I walked down the main road in Kuta looking for a late dinner I was pulled aside by a tourist vendor and I bought myself a little package - glass bottom boat ride, snorkeling, and a trip to turtle island. The ways were rough on the ocean so we (a Spanish couple and myself) opted not to snorkel and instead we trading that in for parasailing. Our parasailing adventure will be tomorrow morning, afterwards I hope to head to Ubud for a few days.
I don't know where I will be sleeping tomorrow night, but I will worry about that tomorrow.
Food is good and cheap here. The pollution is a bit overwhelming and was making me a little sick so I ducked into this internet cafe.
I have a bit of a cold that I am fighting off at the moment but otherwise I am healthy. Who could possibly get a cold in 38 degree heat? me of course. I blame AC! And of course it arrived the day before I was to get on a plane, at least I didn't have it while diving.
It is a shame that I am here all by myself. I am not lonely but it is always cooler to share these experiences with a friend.
I held a sea turtle, a giant bat, a sea eagle, and a python today. I have pictures.
It is rainy here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I have posted some pics for previous posts starting at The Blue Mountains.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Goodbye Australia

I just wanted to let you all know that I am alive and well.
I have just come back to Cairns from Cape Tribulation. It was relaxing and a bit rainy but I was able to meet up with Steph, my French Canadian friend I met in Byron Bay. I wasn't able to get a hold of her before I left so I just crossed my fingers that I would run into her there and I did.
Tonight is my last night in Australia. My time here has gone by so fast.
I have had loads of fun. I promise I will get my pictures up as soon as possible.
Tomorrow night I will be resting my head in my beautiful hotel in Bali that I just booked today. I am sooo organized I can't even tell you!
What am I going to do in Bali? I have nooooo idea but I will probably know in the next 48 hours. As it stands now I have a few recommendations from fellow travellers. I will probably go diving again. I will check out Ubud, eat some fabulous food, and hopefully sit down with some Balinese and learn about their culture. I can't promise no night clubs.

Anyway, thanks a bunch Aussieland. Its been great, if not horribly expensive.
in 19 days I land in Bangkok!!! yes, yes, I have three countries to pass through first but I am really excited to return to a country that I hold so dear to my heart.
Viki....we are totally diving in Ko Tao, or at least I am diving. I have been on dry land for far too long already. What is it? day three without diving? it is more addictive than tattooing!

I am heading off to dinner now with Terrah (from my trip to Kenya) and Steph (Quebecer).


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Diving the Reef!

Hello all! I have just arrived back in Cairns. I spent the last three days out on the Great Barrier Reef scuba diving. 11 dives in three days, that is very exhausting! I took the advanced open water course while I was out there. I am now an advanced diver. I did two night dives...a little scary but oddly calming. I did a deep dive, and many others. These are pictures from my first go with the underwater camera. The colours were amazing. I am sorry that they don't show up that much here.
Oh that blue thing is a stinger suit. We have to wear them because of the jellyfish in the water.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Who doesn't like a good steam room? no room...even better!

oh it is hot!
Really, really hot.
The heat is intense, probably around 35, then add the humidity. There is not much I feel like doing. I am in Mission beach right now which is very close to Cairns. I am taking a bit of a rest day. The ocean is sooo warm it is almost too hot to swim in. It feels like a bath tub, even when the water is deep enough to go over your head. There is a netted swimming area that we must swim in because of the stingers. The pool at my hotel is also too warm. That and it is full of beer drinking truckers. The little hotel is fabulous though! It is all gardens, hug ferns and flowering trees. Each little block of rooms is hidden in this dark green jungle. There is a BBQ and we will buy some seafood and veggies and BBQ it up! I am in charge of the salad and desert which is very exciting! I miss cooking. The tour leaders called dibs on the!
Last night we all went out for dinner at a nice asian fusion restaurant and then had some beers at a pub on the beach. Lush, everything is so lush. My skin is loving it. The Irish on the trip are having a bit of trouble with the heat. The Brits aren't doing too well either.
So that is basically it for me.
A relaxing day in the sauna that is Mission Beach.
Tomorrow to Cairns- scuba diving, sky diving, cape tribulation....who knows?!


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Take only photos, leave only footprints

The Whitsundays!!

After a quick breakfast the bus arrived to pick us up. We were the last pick up so they were a bit delayed. The air conditioned giant dropped us off a few minutes later at the wharf. The excitement for the day had grown as we waited to be picked up and by the time we were unloaded most of us were giddy with anticipation. In front of us was a Maxi. Not just any Maxi, the Ragamuffin. Three time winner of the Sydney to Hobart Challenge, multiply second and third places finishes, and winner of a variety of other international competitions.
What is a Maxi you ask? I had asked that same question as we waited for our pick up. Greg was kind enough to enlighten me, "A maxi is the NASCAR of sailboats". Got it, it is a fast boat. If it wasn't a world famous racer I still would have been deliriously happy. Sail boat + sun + Great Barrier Reef National Park+ picnic on the beach.... sure being on a world class winner racer is a bonus but the day is the prize.

What did I do today?
Today I spent sailing around the Whitsundays on Ragamuffin. My fabulous ipod provided the soundtrack to my day of champaign sailing (I did get to do a bit of work pulling ropes, cranking up sails). On the way out the Beatles (Across the Universe soundtrack) was just the perfect touch, and the late afternoon sail back in was in tune with some Bob Marley. Did I mention it was relaxing?

Meredith, I missed you soo much! Well, I didn't so much miss you, I wasn't lonely for you, but I did think about you tones and imagine how cool it would be if you were on Ragamuffin with me. I told the whole crew about you. (you have a job waiting for you on Ragamuffin by the way)

I spent most of the sail at the stern (front right?), hanging off the side and relishing the cool waves occasionally splashing my dangling legs. If I wasn't draping most of my body off the boat, I was stretched out soaking in the rays while watching the sails, or standing right up in the thing that juts off the front and staring out at the beautiful topical ocean views.
I may not have been the hardest working sailor but I was dressed very well. Yup, pulled out all the stops with white shorts, dark blue breezy shirt, fabulous earings (thanks ash), and a side ponytail, a hug sun hat, and big dark glasses. I just thought I would describe how smashing I looked since you don't have a picture. Well my philosophy for today day was, if I don't look like part of the crew, might as well look like I own the yacht. was fun.

We didn't see much marine life. I did spot a giant sea turtle. That was pretty exciting.
The lunch on the beach was great. It was unfortunate that we had to wear stinger suits for the water.

Well my time is up. sorry about spelling mistakes. i have no time to proof read.

The day was Fabulous!


Drought? but it's raining...

Well I am back to the coast from the outback. The farm stay was great. really different. The rains here made it well... not what i imagined. when I think outback, i think dusty red rocky earth, but with the rains everything was well, lime green. It is hard to imagine rains like they have been having here and the land still suffering from drought. The rains are either not the right kind or still not enough to be able to help last the year. It is a mind trip to be walking through fields of mud, roads being washed out, and then having to take a very short shower because of the intensity of the drought. But that is the reality for the people of Queensland, espicially the farmers.
Despite the rain and the washed out roads, the farm stay was fun. Bill the owner was such a character! oh god he was funny. I had a chance to go horse back riding which was really great. I was totally in "The Man from Snowy River". (fyi, that is the name of australia's most famous poem, not just a movie. who knew?)
We were not able to sleep in swage because of the rain but we did have all our good country australian food cooked out on the campfire. It was, well cuntry, a little salty (I had my first taste of corn beef) but still good.

Again, I will update with pictures later.
Sorry I am short, but again, time is money.


Monday, February 04, 2008

books to read, noted. I will look for both.
Thanks guys.

Fraser Island

Hi all,
I know there are too many post all at once but so much has happend and I won't get to another computer for a while.
I just spent the last two days on Frasher Island. My tour group met up with other travellers as we boarder the Fraser Island Company 4wheel drive bus that would be our transport over the famous sand island.
Our guid was Rossco, I really can't say another about this guy. He was efficient, kind, funny, so knowledgeable, and all around amazing.

The highlight for Fraser Island for me was probably when we entered the tropical rainforest, were kicked out of the bus, met but thousands of cicadas hidden in the trees and obviously offended by our interruption.

For those of you who don't know what a cicada is or the noise it makes but they are insects that rub their legs together and it creats ahigh pitch kind of whin that is pretty cool, however I have never know them to be as load as they were when we stepped out of the bus. So this amazing noise was the perfect soundtrack to what my eyes were taking in.
The giant firns, the skinny but tall plams and the trees that seems to touch the sky all made me take an extra look around for dinos. Really everything was super big! huge! we were tiny little creatures in this forest. And to top it all off this is a rain forest that essentally has grown up on a sand doon!!!!!!! HOW?! HOW?! I was talking on sand and staring at firns the size of houses! It was so unreal and that was just the first 20mins of my time on Fraser Island.

What else? well I don't have much time so I will just list.

Dingos, birds big and small, 75miles of straight white beach that we could drive on, shark infested waters, fresh water creeks, freshwater lakes, sand blows that would take anyone's breath away, salt water pools whose rocks keeps out the sharks but welcomed the crashing waves, beautiful tents with hard wood floors, more rainforest hikes, sand dune treks, swims in fresh water lakes and creeks, a fabulous fish dinner, kangaroo meet to sample, hot showers, new friends, tones of laughs. Paradise!

Next stop?
The OUTBACK!!! Two nights sleeping in swag under the stars and horseback riding!!!

Love it all.
Miss none of you!


ps. photos will be added to posts later.